British envoy visits Wuhan, expresses rational, objective voice amid bumpy China-UK ties

By Zhang Han, Liu Caiyu and Yang Sheng Source: Global Times Published: 2020/12/17 12:48:47

British Ambassador Caroline Wilson spoke highly of Wuhan's anti-epidemic achievements and expressed her wish to see more cooperation during her recent visit to the city in Central China's Hubei Province hit hardest in China by the COVID-19 earlier this year. 

Wilson's trip and remarks demonstrated the existence of rational and objective voices from the UK which can offset the negative factors in bumpy China-UK relations in the past year, Chinese observers said on Thursday. 

Wilson launched a Wuhan vlog on China's Sina Weibo, which started with a visit to local hospitals that treated many COVID-19 patients during the epidemic. She learned about how Chinese doctors and nurses spared no efforts in saving critical patients and attended a videoconference between Wuhan Union Hospital and Swansea University Medicine School on anti-virus experiences. 

Wilson also visited landmark buildings in the city, including the Moon Bay resort that was designed by British firm Zaha Hadid Architects and a Chinese design studio. She went to museums and historical sites and spoke with university students and businesspeople.

Wilson is the first ambassador from a Five Eyes country to visit Wuhan despite continued pressure from the intelligence alliance on a wide range of issues, from Hong Kong affairs to the coronavirus. 

Cui Hongjian, director of the Department of European Studies at the China Institute of International Studies, saw Wilson's expressions as proof of objective and rational forces in bilateral relations that can re-balance the negative impact of conflicts and confrontations. 

"No matter how the UK changes its attitude and policies, such voices are always necessary and will serve the UK's own interest," Cui said. 

Wuhan is the seventh city Wilson visited after taking office in October, and she recalled touring the city 20 years ago when talking about how the city modernized, local media reported. The ambassador is active on Weibo, posting vlogs and interacting with netizens very often. 

"Wuhan had a very difficult time but now people are enjoying life again. I know it's not an easy task," Wilson said in Chinese during her visit. She spoke highly of Wuhan people's aspirations and great ideals in bringing the city back to life amid major challenges.

Some Western media did not give up their narrative that Wuhan's situation is way worse than reported. 

As an envoy in China, Wilson is performing her duty of promoting mutual understanding. The ambassador's real experience will be more convincing than distorted smears from some politicians that have never seen Wuhan or China, Cui said. 

During her stay, Wilson also attended a seminar on promoting economic and trade ties, where she outlined the UK's business environment and advantages to Wuhan companies, and learned about their needs in cooperating with British firms.

She said Wuhan is an open city and British brands are very popular here. She hailed the achievements on cooperation between Hubei Province and the UK, and hoped to deepen cooperation in fields such as trade, tackling climate change and medical innovation.

There are some basic conflicts between China and the UK that cannot be settled in the short term, but the two countries can still work together to stabilize the relationship by cooling down those confrontations and finding practical cooperation in some areas, Cui said, citing next year's climate summit chaired by the UK as an example.

Wilson's expression is positive but the UK has been harshly criticizing China, and British domestic politics will have inertia, meaning China cannot expect an immediate brake or a U-turn of its policies, Cui said. 

A stable and good China-UK relationship is consistent with the country's interests and strategy of independent diplomacy, the expert said. 

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